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Holy War?


Just War Theory is a set of criteria that governments, philosophers, and theologians use to determine if war is justifiable. According to this theory, war is always horrible but not always the worst way forward. Some commonly agreed-upon reasons for a “just war” are defending one’s country, preventing a tyrant from attacking, or punishing a guilty enemy. Just War guidelines are relevant as we examine the second half of Esther 8.

As soon as Mordecai gathered the secretaries, he drafted a new law in the name of the king (vv. 9–10). He couldn’t revoke Haman’s decree, so he issued a new edict to counter it. He authorized the Jews to defend themselves against the annihilation Haman had called for. Mordecai sent his edict throughout the kingdom via couriers and royal horses (vv. 13–14).

Then Mordecai proceeded joyfully through the city, wearing a royal garment and a crown. Notice this grand reversal from his sackcloth and ashes in chapter 4. Jews throughout the kingdom joined him in celebrating (v. 17). The original readers would have rejoiced at this salvation.

But today’s readers may wonder about the morality of such extensive permission to plunder and to kill. Certainly, the reason could be classified as “self-defense.” We may find it difficult to reconcile the retributive violence in Esther with Jesus’ teaching to love our enemies as ourselves (Matt. 5:44) or Paul’s instruction to leave vengeance to the Lord (Rom. 12:19). One commentator explains: “The death of Jesus . . . provides the only basis for the cessation of holy war, and infilling of the Holy Spirit provides the only power by which one may love one’s enemies as oneself.”

>> We are thankful that sin has been satisfied in Jesus’ death on the cross. Only through Him can we find the power to forgive as we have been forgiven. God will give you the strength to stand up when required and the grace to forgive when at all possible.

BY Kelli Worrall

Kelli Worrall is Professor of Communications and Chair of the Division of Music and Media Arts at Moody Bible Institute. She is the author of two books, one of which she co-authored with her husband Peter. Kelli studied at Cedarville University (BA), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (MRE), and Roosevelt University (MFA).  She enjoys speaking both individually and with Peter at events and retreats. They live in northwest Illinois with their two children.

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